A/N: The final part of The Covenant, from Bella's POV. Hopefully this will answer some questions a few of you had about Bella.
Evenings at the Cullen house were my favorite.
I grew up in a house filled with noise; fourteen people in one house would do that. I'd spent the majority of my years sharing a room with my older sister Leah, and after she got married, my younger sister Emily. In my entire life I'd barely had a moment to myself outside of the bathroom, so the quiet solitude of the Cullen house was nirvana.
Most nights I spent an hour or so in the family room, reading or watching television with Carlisle and Esme before escaping up to my sitting room on the third floor. There, I'd curl up on Edward's old and comfortable leather sofa and read until it was time to go to bed, basking in the quiet and imagining that I could still smell him in the worn black smoothness that supported me. During the renovations, Esme had tried to convince me to completely redecorate the masculine space that had been Edward's into a more feminine space of my own, but I'd refused, only relenting to get a new bed set.
It seemed beyond perverse to have sex in Edward's bed with his father, so I made that one small concession. Otherwise, I wanted to be surrounded by him, by his things, by his memory. I kept as much of his as possible, including his books and his music, only letting things go when my insistence on keeping them might seem strange or worrisome.
I didn't want to hurt Esme or Carlisle. They were so good to me, and they always had been. So I pretended to be okay. And because I had somehow become the glue that had let both of them hold everything together through Edward's death, they let me pretend and didn't see the signs of my unraveling.
I was hanging onto this life by a string.
Tonight I settled into my favorite chair in the family room and opened up one of my textbooks, intending to review some material for my next class. Carlisle was watching some History Channel program on low sound, and the murmur of the television combined with the clicking of Esme's knitting needles provided just the right amount of background noise.
Everything about this was familiar. For the past ten years of my life I'd been spending as many evenings as possible here, first with Alice and then later with Edward. They were in the grade ahead of me at school, but because of our church affiliation, most of the kids at school avoided us. We stuck together, and Alice and I had forged a strong friendship in spite of the slight age difference. I couldn't count the number of times I'd sat in this very room, doing homework. This house had been an oasis to me, even before Edward and I had fallen in love, and I'd always longed to live here in the peaceful, loving quiet.
I'd always wanted to be a Cullen. And now I was, in everything but name. Once upon a time, I would have gotten the name, but second wives stayed legal spinsters forever and I would forever be a Swan.
I made it through the chapter I was reviewing relatively quickly, and set my book aside before rising to get a glass of water.
"I'm going to get something to drink. Can I get either of you anything?"
Carlisle looked up at me and shook his head with a soft smile. Esme set down her needles and stood up.
"I think I'll come with and make myself a hot cocoa," she said, and though I was more than willing to make it for her, I'd learned fairly quickly that when Esme wanted to do something, she did it.
We made our way into the kitchen in companionable silence. I quickly got a glass and filled it with water as Esme put on some milk to heat. I was just getting ready to retreat to my room for the night, intent on enjoying some time on Edward's couch, when Esme spoke.
"So Bella, how are your studies going? Are you doing well in your classes?"
I took a sip from my glass and nodded, though the truth was that the very thought of my studies made me feel even emptier than I usually did. I was a straight A student in school, and before all of my dreams in life had died with Edward, I'd planned to go to nursing school to get my RN degree. It was a plan we'd made together, Edward in medical school and me in nursing school, probably in Seattle so we could have some freedom but still be close to our families.
When Edward died the summer before he left for college, so did my chance of going away and pursuing a degree. The only way my father would have allowed it was if I'd gone as Edward's wife, at his behest. I was lucky that Carlisle allowed me to take classes at the community college in Port Angeles, and of course the closest thing they had to nursing was a MA certificate that wouldn't take me even a year to complete.
I'd probably never even get to use it.
"Good. That's so good. It will be comforting to have someone with some training in the house. With Carlisle gone during the day, I always worried that one of the little ones would need him in an emergency. It will be so nice for you to always know you can do at least the basics should your babies need it." Esme's voice was full of light and hope, just as it was every time she mentioned children, which was more and more often these days. As the past five months of my marriage to Carlisle had passed by without the hoped-for pregnancy, Esme had become more and more vocal about her desire for children.
I didn't look up at her until I was sure my face was neutral.
"Yes, that will be a comfort."
I loved Esme and I wanted to make her happy. I knew what she wanted, what I had signed on for when I assented to my father accepting Carlisle's proposal. But I wasn't ready.
I was just barely twenty years old.
After I went to the bathroom, I returned to the family room to grab my books and say goodnight. I was tired all of a sudden and all I wanted was to go up to my room and fall asleep listening to some of Edward's music. When I got there, though, Esme was gone and Carlisle gestured for me to join him on the couch.
"Come watch a movie with me, sweetheart," he called, his voice warm and inviting.
"She was tired and went ahead to bed," he explained with a little shrug, then patted the seat next to him.
I frowned, but left my book where it was and sat next to Carlisle. His arm went around me and settled me firmly into his side before he started the movie, but I couldn't concentrate. Tonight was supposed to be Esme's night and I had been looking forward to the solitude. Sometimes it felt like the only thing that held me together was my time wrapped up in memories of Edward and I'd been too busy to sink into them the past few nights. Not only that, I felt guilty, like I was monopolizing Carlisle's time. I knew from living in a house with three mothers that any perception of inequity could cause tension and resentment and the last thing I wanted was for Esme to resent me.
Anymore than she already must, that is.
Eventually, Carlisle must have noticed my tension because he began running his hands up and down my arms in a soothing motion. The slow slide felt good and I started to relax a little, sighing as I felt some of the stress leave me in the wake of his touch. After a few minutes, he stopped and shifted away from me. I looked over to find him settling at an angle into the corner of the couch. He spread his thighs and patted the cushion in front of him.
"You're so tense. Come here and let me help."
I smiled and scooted over until I was cradled between his legs. His large, warm hands immediately hit my shoulders and I hummed in appreciation at the gentle kneading of his fingers. Carlisle made a living with his hands, and it was abundantly obvious how skilled they were in many different situations. He could play my body with ease, and I appreciated his attention now as I completely relaxed.
"What has you so wound up? If you're having problems with your class work, I'm happy to work with you on it," Carlisle offered in a soft, soothing voice.
I shook my head. "Thank you but I'm fine. I think. . . it was just a long day. I guess I'm just a little tired." I heard him hmmm in response as his hands continued to work their magic. When his fingers slid up my neck and onto my scalp, it felt amazing, and I let out a little moan of pleasure.
Carlisle's breathing deepened and I felt him begin to harden against my backside. He shifted forward, into me, his chest meeting my back and his lips finding my exposed neck. He kissed the sensitive nape before opening his mouth and sucking gently on the skin. I felt myself flush with sudden heat and another whimper forced itself out of my throat, this time of a different kind of pleasure.
"I love that sound," Carlisle murmured softly into my ear. His hands left my hair to wrap around my waist and he pulled me more firmly into the cradle of his lap. There was no mistaking his arousal.
I wasn't sure how something that had started so innocently had ended up here so quickly. Carlisle had never blurred the lines between my nights and Esme's nights before, and the guilt that I had let him ease away with his hands began to niggle away at me again. Yet when he gently urged me to turn around with his hands, I didn't protest, just shifted around until I was facing him.
Never say no to your husband when it's within your power to say yes, Sue had counseled me before I was wed, even though it went against everything my mother had been trying to secretly teach me about being assertive. I'd already gone against Renee's wishes by agreeing to this marriage, and it seemed silly to protest now. In for a penny, in for a pound.
It wasn't my place to say no to my husband, and if I was honest with myself, a big part of me really didn't want to. I was used to feeling guilty every time I enjoyed Carlisle's touch and betraying Esme was no worse than betraying Edward.
Carlisle helped me adjust until I was straddling his lap, my knees on either side of his thighs. I leaned forward to meet his lips as one of his hands came around to span across my lower back, helping to support me. Our kisses started out light, his mouth meeting mine in a series of searing but close-mouthed brushes of lip against lip. But soon he was angling my head with his free hand, fingers tightening slightly in my hair as his mouth slanted more possessively against mine. I opened up to his insistent tongue and felt him invade my mouth. His kisses were deep, passionate, drugging, almost overwhelming in their intensity. I felt myself begin to respond everywhere.
That in itself was a little surprising. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy my intimate time with Carlisle, I did, but it usually took some work and a little synthetic lubricant to get me completely ready for him. Carlisle took it in stride, had even commented in his doctor voice once when I'd been embarrassed that it was normal and that lots of women needed extra help with lubrication. I'd never tell him that I hadn't always been this way.
I'd always been embarrassingly wet for Edward. Right here on this couch, in fact, where we would make-out whenever we caught a spare second of alone time.
The throbbing ache built as Carlisle's kisses continued, his hand moving from the small of my back down until he was cupping my rear over my skirt. I felt my body moving of its own accord, my hips opening further to let my knees spread and my body sink down to rest my full weight in his lap. The movement pushed my skirt, which started below the knees, to high up on my thighs and Carlisle's eyes darted down, his throat rumbling a quiet groan. His hand on my backside tightened and he rocked me forward, sliding my panty-covered vagina over his hardness. Once again, I was surprised by the slickness of the movement and I moaned as pleasure spiked through me.
"Shhh," Carlisle pleaded in a whisper before once again covering my mouth with his as he continued to slide me slowly, back and forth over his erection. I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around his neck, letting my fingers play in the thick hair at the nape. He hummed softly into my mouth, before pulling away and breathing heavily in my ear for several long moments. Then, as though he'd made some decision, he quickly leaned back far enough to create distance between our chests. His hands hit the hem of my sweater and then he tugged it off over my head before dropping it lightly to the floor. His fingers hit my newly-naked collarbone and they skimmed across, his light touch reawakening the goose bumps on my arms as he hooked his index fingers under each strap of my tank. He tugged down until the straps were at my elbows, lightly binding my arms, and my breasts were exposed.
Carlisle stared at me for a second, his eyes hot and hungry as he took in my pushed-up breasts, my tight nipples. I resisted the urge to cover myself, an urge that was still there after all of these months. My breasts were barely a handful, small enough that I usually went with a tank instead of a bra, and I couldn't help but feel inadequate compared to Esme. At forty-two, she was still a goddess among women as far as I was concerned, her body round in all of the places every developing teenage girl wants to be round. My body had stalled out long before that point, leaving me leaner than I would have preferred. It was hard for me to understand how Carlisle could be attracted to me when he had her, but even I had to admit that his fascination with my breasts was undeniable. He loved to look at them, touch them, love them with his mouth and his fingers. Even in the times he took me from behind, he paid special attention to my breasts as if just the feel of them turned him on.
Now he looked his fill before leaning forward and capturing one tight bud in his mouth, tonguing it gently until it was even fuller of my pounding blood. I buried my face in the crown of his head and closed my eyes, trying not to make the sounds that wanted to erupt from my throat as his mouth worked from tip to tip, and back again. I could feel the length of him seated at my center, hot and hard and pushing upwards with the smallest involuntary movements of his hips. I wanted to thread my fingers in his hair again, but my arms were trapped close to my sides between the straps of my tank and the grip of his fingers so I stayed as still as possible while Carlisle took pleasure from my body, and gave it in return.
My mind drifted. I forgot about Esme, about the way that Carlisle was basically cheating on her to be with me, like this, on her night. I mostly forgot about Edward, though I briefly wondered if my body's easy response had something to do with sensory memory of his caresses and kisses on this couch. I let myself go for these few brief moments and tried not to think or feel anything except my most basic reactions. It was a sweet escape.
It was Carlisle's voice that broke me out of my semi-trance, a guttural whisper as he took my hands and wrapped them around his penis.
"I need you, Bella," he said, as he guided me to stroke him. I hadn't even noticed him undoing his khaki pants and pushing them down just enough to free his erection. It stood hard and tall between us.
The positioning was awkward, but I did my best to please my husband, touching him in the ways he'd shown me he liked best. His skin was smooth and hot under my palms, my thumbs, and I stroked him at a firm steady pace while his breath caught in jagged pants. Then his hands were pushing up under my skirt, gripping my thighs before his long fingers slipped under the front of my panties. I winced as he got caught in my pubic hair, and he quickly murmured an apology before sliding his fingers down to touch my center. They slipped easily through the gathered moisture and this time Carlisle ignored his own urgings to be quiet and moaned loudly.
Before I knew what was happening, Carlisle had my panties pushed to the side and his big hand pulling me up and over his hardness. He gently knocked my hands aside to grip and position himself at my entrance and then he was thrusting into me.
His mouth captured mine as we traded quiet, ragged sounds. His hands were heavy and purposeful on my waist as he guided my movements, working himself in more deeply with each rolling rock of our hips.
"Baby. . . so good," Carlisle whisper-groaned, his breath hot and humid on my ear. I murmured an incoherent noise in agreement, basking in his term of endearment. Carlisle rarely called me baby, only when he was inside me really, and I liked it.
Edward had called me baby, too.
It must have been good, because it didn't take Carlisle long to finish. His thrusts got hard and fast and his fingers against my center moved quickly in his attempts to bring me with him. Usually, Carlisle was a patient lover, but I enjoyed this new experience, in all that it was wild and forbidden. I could feel my body spiraling out of control as Carlisle gripped my backside hard and slammed into me one last time. He buried his face in my neck as he orgasmed and all of the feelings combined to send me over the edge. I finished as quietly as possible, biting my lip to keep in even the smallest of noises that might finally betray our activity.
The aftermath was silent save our heavy breaths. Carlisle's face stayed in my neck even as he slid from my body and let my panties fall back into place. I knew I was a mess and that it would only get worse the longer I stayed this way, so I squirmed away to pull my tank top back up and scoot off of Carlisle's lap. He let me go and quietly righted his own clothing.
The guilt I had managed to push away was back, as was the bone-deep ache of exhaustion.
"We shouldn't have. . ." I began, then caught myself before I criticized Carlisle outright. "This was Esme's night."
"Esme is my concern, not yours," he replied, somewhat more sternly than normal, but then his voice softened. "And I can promise you that she wouldn't mind if it means you might conceive. I've noticed how regular your cycles are. You should be close to ovulation now, right?"
I swallowed, and nodded.
I should be close to ovulation now.
My shower was hot and it turned my skin pink. I barely noticed the heat beyond the effect it had in soothing my body. I was numb, shut down, depleted without the time I had promised myself on Edward's couch.
My actions were thoughtless and robotic. I washed my body, my face, my hair. I picked up my razor and ran it over the necessary places.
Shut off water. Step on bathmat. Dry body. Wrap hair.
My feet moved me toward the vanity, and I opened the bottom drawer where I kept my tampons and pads. I carefully shook out a few tampons until I could stick my hand inside and rummage at the bottom. My fingers touched what I was looking for and I pulled the blister pack out, pushed my thumb against a small blue pill until it popped out the foil at the back. I placed the birth control pill in my mouth and swallowed it dry.
This was the last month I had. I'd need to speak with my mother about filling another prescription. It was probably safe enough for me to get it myself in Port Angeles, but I was afraid Carlisle would somehow find out. I promised myself I wouldn't do it for much longer. I figured I had a few months left before Carlisle would make me go get fertility tests.
I stood in my bathroom and stared at my reflection. I didn't know who this girl was. And maybe that was because she wasn't a girl anymore, but a woman, a woman with a husband and a Sister Wife and a life devoid of anything but God and babies and service to her family.
It wasn't a horrible life. Someday, when this still-aching loss wasn't so fresh, I knew I could find contentment. But never joy, because the bottom line was, I was living a lie.
I didn't believe in The Covenant. I never had.
And I didn't believe in a God that could take Edward Cullen from this world and leave me here to exist without him. Because I guess that's what I did.
The house was blissfully silent as I slid between my sheets, alone in my bed in a room that used to be Edward's.
I enjoy the silence while it lasts.
A/N: So, definitely an angst rating for this one. My hope is that I was able to show that these three are pretty deeply damaged, but trying to get whatever happiness they can out of their lives. While there are parts that probably should be pretty creepy, there was no outright villain in this little ficlet in my mind and hopefully in yours too. I thought about adding a Renee POV, and maybe a pre-death Edward POV to give some more perspective, but I'm not making any promises as this feels "done" to me. I really hope you enjoyed it in some way.